University of Queensland lecturer inspires tiny mathematicians

HELPER: Dr Yoni Nazarathy brought his daughter to help Rathdowney maths students. Photo: Supplied
HELPER: Dr Yoni Nazarathy brought his daughter to help Rathdowney maths students. Photo: Supplied

RATHDOWNEY State School students across all age groups were visited on October 18 by Dr Yoni Nazarathy from the University of Queensland, who is also an ambassador for the Global Math Project and co-founder of One on Epsilon, an organisation designed to introduce children to the fun side of mathematics.

Rathdowney State School principal Tina van Bennekom said Dr Nazarathy had offered to visit the school during Global Maths Week and the offer was gratefully accepted.

“The children were quite excited, and even the kids who are not all that comfortable with maths enjoyed the visit and gained a better understanding of concepts like place value,” she said.

“Dr Nazarathy presented ‘Exploding Dots’, which is a new way of looking at number and place value.

“He worked with our prep to year two students, then our kids in years three to six and he even brought his daughter with him as his little helper.”

Dr Nazarathy spoke to the smallest potential maths whizzes.

Dr Nazarathy spoke to the smallest potential maths whizzes.

Ms Bennekom said the talk was educational for teachers as well as students. 

“The kids got a lot out of that visit and Dr Nazarathy kindly offered to continue the collaboration with our school,” she said.

Dr Nazarathy said the idea of collaborating with schools in the Scenic Rim occurred to him after a 600 kilometre six-day bike ride from Brisbane to Grafton, via Boonah.

“We really want to build relationships in the beautiful Scenic Rim so I called Rathdowney school and told them I was passing by and asked if they wanted to see a mathematician,” he said.

“I was glad when Tina called to accept, and I took my daughter Kayley along as my helper.

“Kayley is nine-years-old and attends a school with about 500-600 children, so it was lovely for her to also spend some time playing handball and getting to know kids at a much smaller school.”

Dr Nazarathy said Exploding Dots was developed by an Australian mathematician and showed children how they would see numbers and place value if they were aliens with only two fingers on each hand.

“Our maths system is based on the fact that humans have ten fingers,” he said. 

“If we were creatures with only two or three fingers on each hand we would probably have a different number system.